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Using Denmark Land Records to Identify Tenant Peasants

Lene Dræby Kottal
Using Denmark Land Records to Identify Tenant Peasants

From the 15th to the 18th centuries, most of the land and real property in Denmark was owned by the manors, the churches, and the King, but that does not mean that land records have no value for genealogists researching for peasants. They have great value as indirect evidence of relationships.

Streets had no names, at least not in rural areas. Instead, each farm and house in a manor's book of land were described in terms of who the tenant was. The image below shows a snippet from a copy of a 1764 book of land, which names Hans Nielsen, tenant of "Lille Bisberre" in Ubberud Parish under the manor Sankt Knuds Kloster.1 The record shows that Hans Nielsen was the manor's only tenant of Lille Bisbjerg. This means that any mention of tenant Hans Nielsen of Lille Bisbjerg in other records from around that time were probably mentions of him. In correlation with information from parish registers and other records, the information in the books of land provided enough evidence for me to conclude that Hans Nielsen of Lille Bisbjerg was my 6th great-grandfather.

Snippet from a 1764 book of land

What if Manorial Records Are Lost?

Not all manorial records have been kept, but often you can find a copy of a book of land. When real property was sold, the deed and the appended book of land was publicized in court. In most cases, a copy of the most recent book of land was recorded among the court minutes whenever the manor was sold. Publication also took place when a manor owner mortgaged his/her property. By researching the ownership history of a manor, you can get an idea of when to look for publications of deeds and appended books of land.


Source References:

  1. Fynbo Landsting [Regional Court for Funen], Book of Deeds and Mortgages 19 (1762-1768), folio 481 verso to 482 verso, court day 19 December 1781: nr. 22, book of land of Sankt Knuds Kloster (dated 14 November 1764); image copy, The Danish National Archives, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/billedviser?bsid=174860#174860,29386956 : accessed 23 February 2022) > image 486 of 651.
  2. The image at the top of the post: Kort over Radbye samt Store, Lille, og Öster, Bisbierg udi Uberup Sogn, Odense Herred og Amt [Map of Radbye and Store, Lille, and Öster, Bisbierg in Uberup Parish, Odense District and County] (Denmark: 1811); image copy, image copy, Geodatastyrelsen, Historiske kort på nettet (https://hkpn.gst.dk/mapviewer.aspx?type=o1k_oekort&id=2299&elav=0331460 : accessed 23 February 2022).

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